SEABOURN ODYSSEY ISTANBUL TO VENICE VIA BLACK SEA AND GREEK ISLES SEPTEMBER 2012
August 28th to September 1st We first stayed in Istanbul in September 2008 and were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed the city. We found it even more enjoyable on this visit. The airport terminal was greatly improved and many flowers were planted along the road into the heart of the city. Unfortunately the traffic is a nightmare and it was about an hour of stop and go to get to the hotel. The Turkish people are wonderful and incredibly helpful.
Based upon the rave review on Tripadvisor we chose the Millennium Suites Hotel for our three night stay and were not disappointed! The hotel only has seven rooms and is situated a few blocks from the Blue Mosque. The staff was incredibly attentive. We toured most of the various monuments, etc. during our last visit, so we relaxed and adjusted to the seven hour time change in preparation for our cruise on the Seabourn Odyssey from Istanbul to the Black Sea, Greek Isles and ending in Venice. We did enjoy a cruise on the Bosphorus which separates Europe from Asia.
I would be remiss not to mention that the service we received on Delta Airlines between JFK and Istanbul was extraordinary and we even arrived about a hour early.
Here is a LINK to the photos I took in Istanbul, Sinop, Cesme and Izmir Turkey.
September 1st Boarding the Odyssey went very smoothly. We were on the ship shortly after noon and had lunch on the veranda of the Colonnade Restaurant. We saw many familiar faces among the crew members, almost all of whom already knew our names. We used our time in the afternoon to unpack our bags and attend the mandatory emergency drill. At 5:00 PM we set sail through the Bosphorus to the Black Sea.
September 2nd Our first Black Sea port was Nessebur, Bulgaria. We decided that tours would be the best way to learn about these new destinations (new for us). We began with a tour of the city and then continued with a bus trip to a small village where we visited the home of a local farm family; and then continued on to a local restaurant where we sampled local yogurts, cheeses, etc. The country is beautiful, but there is just a sense of despondence about the people - probably a holdover from the communist control of the country. Many homes in the countryside had been abandoned when people were moved into the typical socialist housing projects. They are making progress, but as with the world in general have been hurt by the economic turn down. Because it was Sunday, many of the shops in the city were closed.
September 3rd Our port was Constanta, Romania, which is the third largest port in Europe. It was hard not to notice the general poor condition of the buildings that in their time must have been incredibly grand. We were very impressed with the Museum in Constanta which had an extensive assortment of Roman antiquities. We then drove to a beach resort area, which was modern, but mainly visited by Romanian tourists. With its beautiful sandy beach and warm water it will surely have a bright future as an international tourist destination.
September 4th We did not participate in a tour of Odessa, Ukraine, but did take a shuttle bus to the center of the city where we briefly visited a beautiful Greek Orthodox Church. It is worth mentioning that the churches in all three of the Black Sea countries we visited were beautiful and well cared for.
September 5th The highlight of our tour in Yalta was a visit to the Livadia Palace which is where Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt met for the Yalta Conference in 1945 and planned for the division of Europe at the conclusion of World War II. The Palace was built in 1911 and was the vacation residence of the last Russian Tsaar.
Yalta is a beautiful vacation spot and stretches along the Black Sea with a tall mountainous back drop. It was noticeably more prosperous than the other Black Sea ports we visited.
September 6th Our last port of call in the Black Sea was Sinop, Turkey. We walked into the city which was clean and pleasant. It seemed to us that the Turks are much friendlier and congenial than the people we interfaced with in the other Black Sea countries we visited. We stopped at one small shop and bought a piece of unusual pastry which we then enjoyed with a cup of Turkish tea along the waterfront. A very relaxing and pleasant day!
September 7th At about noon we entered the Bosphorus and continued on to Istanbul. We were docked by 1:00 PM but decided against going into the city and instead enjoyed a quiet afternoon on board the ship.
September 8th Saturday was a turnover day for the Odyssey in Istanbul. About 100 of us were continuing on the next leg of the cruise to Athens. We stayed on board and enjoyed the solitude. At 5:00 PM we set sail once again on our way to the Aegean Sea.
September 9th Our port for the day was Limnos, Greece - a beautiful, quiet and colorful village. Because it was a Sunday most of the nicer shops were closed. We enjoyed our stroll along the pedestrian street to a beautiful small, sandy beach area.
September 10th Izmir is a large, modern city with a beautiful and long waterfront full of cafés, restaurants and shops. We found one store with nicely made Turkish shirts and ended up buying three of them to use up the last of our Turkish lira.
September 11th The seas we a bit rough and the ship anchored in Cesme, Turkey instead of using the dock as was planned. Rather than dealing with the tender in rough water we just enjoyed the day on board the Odyssey.
September 12th Kos is a modern city and we had an enjoyable morning strolling through the main shopping and restaurant area along the waterfront.
September 13th I was up early as we approached Santorini taking photos in the early morning light. Unfortunately we were one of seven cruise ships visiting Santorini and everything on land was mobbed with people. We had been here in 2008 when it was much less crowded. We ventured ashore only to be dismayed by the crowd and just enjoyed the day viewing the scenery from the ship and lounging around the whirlpools on the stern of deck 5.
September 14th This was our first time in Crete and we elected to take a tour. We anchored in the port of Chania and rode the tender to shore for a bus ride to the Arkadi Monestary. The Monestary is where the Greeks finally began a successful effort to overthrow the Ottoman rulers who had occupied Crete for several centuries. We then visiting the beautiful coastal city of Rethymnon which is situated on a wonderful sandy beach stretching for many miles. Many of the houses in Rethymnon are of Venetian origin. The tour concludes with a short walk through Chania.
September 15th We were docked in Athens for the day at the end of our second week. Over 200 passengers continued on for the next seven days to several Greek Islands, two ports in Croatia, and a day in Ravenna, Italy before reaching Venice on the 22nd. We visited all of the major sites in Athens on a previous trip and remained on board the Odyssey for the day.
September 16th Gythion is a beautiful city. We docked and walked along the waterfront which was dotted with shops and restaurants. Most of the nicer shops were closed on Sunday. We did find an extensive street market which we enjoyed walking through.
September 17th Katakolon is a small seaside town which acts as the gateway to Olympia. Several large cruise ships were docked and the place was swarming with tourists. I took a short walk along the waterfront for some photos, but Eleanor elected to stay on board the Odyssey and catch up on her reading.
September 18th Corfuru is a clean and bustling city which we enjoyed walking through. It had a major pedestrian street lined with many stores and restaurants. We stopped by one jeweler where I bought a new leather watch band.
September 19th Our previous visits to Dobrovnik, Croatia where on days when many large cruise ships were visiting. This day we were lucky and the weather was beautiful. The city is very clean and full of energy. This was one city we were looking forward to returning to, and we weren't disappointed.
September 20th Hvar is another beautiful Croatian city. We noticed an expansion of wonderful small shops and restaurants since our previous visit and thoroughly enjoyed our day. This was our third time visiting Croatia and are already looking forward to a return at some time in the future. The sea is crystal clear along the Croatian coast and has become a popular area for sailors.
September 22nd Alas this was the morning our cruise concluded in Venice. We took a water taxi into the heart of the city to the Locanda Orseolo, a wonderful small hotel we have stayed at during previous visits. We were warmly greeted by the staff.
Venice was noticeably more crowded than during our previous visits. This was our fourth time to stay at Locanda Orseolo. We had dinner the first night at Barababao one of our favorite Venice restaurants where the owner always recognizes us.
Our entire trip went very smoothly, including our Delta flights. We had a month of near perfect weather! We enjoyed returning to Seabourn where we are now treated incredibly well. We made new friends at the Millenium Suites in Istanbul, and of course enjoyed spending time once again with the wonderful staff at the Locanda Orseolo in Venice.